Selling Your Business

You’ve put in the hours, days, years, maybe even decades building  your business, and now you’re ready to step away. There are numerous potential reasons for such a transition, including:

  • a desire to retire
  • emotional burnout
  • family matters requiring your attention
  • loss of passion for the business
  • financial reasons

Whatever your reasons, recognize that your business is a valuable asset.  And as with any other valuable asset, you should consider selling it for the best price you can.

Planning to sell your business is a process that ideally begins years in advance as part of your long-term succession strategy.  Perhaps a family member can be groomed to take over, or perhaps there is a local competitor with whom you could conduct a gradual and friendly change of ownership. Or maybe a larger enterprise from outside your area would be interested in stepping in to run the business. Or even a friend or neighbor.

The transition should align with your goals and values.  Do you want to maximize financial compensation for the asset you’ve created? Or is preserving the jobs of your star employees your highest priority? If you are a bedrock member of your local business community, you may wish that legacy to carry on with a new owner. Thinking through these values will help determine your approach.

The simplest strategy is to put a ‘for sale’ sign up in your window and just see what happens. But there are many other approaches that you should consider:

  • Google ‘business brokers‘ for your area. These are professionals who are compensated for successful transactions between buyers and sellers, and they have lists of well-off buyers who are interested in buying businesses like yours. Their fees are often a percentage of the sale price, so they will have an interest in maximizing the sale price for you.
  • Talk to your banker. He or she will be aware of local investors who may be interested.
  • Talk to your family. Any of them may be interested in buying the business, either all at once or gradually over years.
  • Discuss your goals with wealthy individuals and successful entrepreneurs in your local community. Even if they are not interested, they may know someone who will be.
  • Send a press release to your local media outlets describing your goals and announcing the business is for sale.
  • Talk to other business owners in the same or affiliated industries. For example, a construction company might talk to their concrete supplier. You never know when another business owner may be looking to diversify.
  • Talk to local civic leaders, such as city commissioners or economic development organizations like Main Street and your local Chamber of Commerce. Your community doesn’t want you to simply close your doors and leave an empty storefront behind.

Remember – even if you’re sick and tired of running your business, someone else, with fresh eyes, may regard it as a valuable asset and be willing to compensate you handsomely for the privilege of taking it over.  Selling your business can be financially rewarding, but it can also be a great celebration of your long years of hard work, and allow the legacy and community benefits of your business to persist after you’ve moved on to other adventures.